There once were two men who lived near an urban park, Tom and Henry.
The two were friends who had met while walking their dogs in the park. As they walked they would talk about the joys of the park, which was filled with hidden glades, brooks and special areas away from the crowds. They were pleased with how the park was maintained. The grass was cut nicely in some areas and new flowers were regularly planted. In other areas, nature was allowed to flourish untouched by human hands. In short, the park was a marvel for them and they loved it.
Both Tom and Henry joined a “Friends of the Park” group in which they would volunteer once a month to help clean up the park, plant flowers, dispose of fallen trees limbs, etc. They would work for several hours on Saturdays with dozens of other friends. They both felt they were doing good and part of something useful. Parks administrators would of course help with such efforts, but the success or failure of the volunteer efforts depending mostly on the work of the volunteers.
One day Henry was walking through the park and he noticed that a rather large tree limb had fallen due to a recent storm. It was blocking one of the paths. He called the park administrators, but the director was on vacation and the message got lost. So the tree limb was left there for several weeks. Every time Henry walked by he got angrier and angrier. “Why aren’t these people doing their jobs?” he would fume.
He would mention the problem to Tom, and Tom would say “I’m sure they will get to it. Isn’t it a beautiful day?”
Henry was beginning to get a bit annoyed with Tom. What a Pollyanna he is, Henry thought. But Henry did not say anything.
The next day Henry noticed that a lot of people in the park were not cleaning up after their dogs. He mentioned this to Tom and he said that he actually thought more people were cleaning up after their dogs, not less. “Boy that guy is annoying,” Henry said to himself. “Doesn’t he see that this park is beginning to fall apart?”
The next day Tom and Henry got in a rather lengthy argument. Henry started to list all of the problems he saw with the park. In addition to the tree limbs and the dog poop, the grass was not being mowed enough and the flowers were being planted poorly. Tom said that he was actually thinking that the park was cleaner and better managed than ever, with more people than ever enjoying the park. In fact, Tom showed Henry an article from a local newspaper saying that park attendance was up. Significantly. Henry said the figures on park attendance were invented by the park administrators.
At the next “Friends of the Park” meeting, Henry spent the entire time bringing up his complaints. The administrators listened patiently but after more than an hour of Henry dominating the meeting, the director said, “we have to move on. Henry, we have taken down your complaints and are working on them.” But Henry loudly complained that it took forever for the administrators to fix things, and sometimes they never get around to his concerns, and the administrators were rude and frankly abusive to him. The director told Henry to mention a specific time when people had been rude to him, but Henry couldn’t remember the specifics.
Tom and Henry saw each other a few days later, and Tom was preparing himself for the usual anti-park harangue as Henry walked toward him on the street. Henry immediately launched into his litany of complaints. After 15 minutes of this, with Tom nodding politely, Tom asked Henry, “have you been to the hidden glades we used to go to all the time? Aren’t they beautiful this year?” But Henry said that the whole park experience was ruined for him every time he even walked near the park. It was a dirty, shabby place now.
“So, you have not even been to the hidden glades or seen the new flower beds, but you are convinced that the whole park is a mess?” Tom asked.
“Yes,” Henry said. “In fact, I am taking a bus to another park now. I can’t even stand that park anymore.”
Tom was thoughtful. “Henry, I just want to tell you that I feel for you, but I have to state that I disagree with you. The park is prettier and better managed than ever. More people than ever are going there. You can certainly go to another park, but I want to tell you that I still love that park and love going there. But to each his own. If you like that other park, then that would be a good solution for you.”
Henry than said: “How can you be so hurtful? How can you discount my feelings so much? Can’t you see I have been traumatized by this whole experience, with the abusive park administrators and the complete disaster that this park has become? You are really a jerk!”
And with that, Henry and Tom stopped being friends. Tom kept on going to the park he loved. He met his future wife there, and they had several kids, and they all enjoyed the park the rest of their lives. Henry would avoid Tom every time he saw him in the street, so Tom really didn’t know what happened to Henry after that. But Henry always looked angry when he saw him. Tom felt sorry for him because that park, the park that used to be their park, truly was beautiful, and Henry didn’t even know it.